Background: In 1998, the attorneys general of 46 states signed a Master Settlement Agreement with the four largest tobacco companies in the United States. The agreement prohibits tobacco advertising that targets people younger than 18 years of age.
Methods: We analyzed the trends in expenditures for advertising for 15 specific brands of cigarettes and the exposure of young people to cigarette advertising in 38 magazines between 1995 and 2000. We defined cigarette brands as "youth" brands if they were smoked by more than 5 percent of the smokers in the 8th, 10th, and 12th grades in 1998; all others were considered to be "adult" brands. We classified magazines as youth-oriented magazines if at least 15 percent of their readers or at least 2 million of their readers were 12 to 17 years old. "Reach," a standard measure of exposure to advertising, was defined as the number of young persons who read at least one issue of a magazine containing an advertisement for a particular brand of cigarette during a given year.
Results: In 2000 dollars, the overall advertising expenditures for the 15 brands of cigarettes in the 38 magazines were $238.2 million in 1995, $219.3 million in 1998, $291.1 million in 1999, and $216.9 million in 2000. Expenditures for youth brands in youth-oriented magazines were $56.4 million in 1995, $58.5 million in 1998, $67.4 million in 1999, and $59.6 million in 2000. Expenditures for adult brands in youth-oriented magazines were $72.2 million, $82.3 million, $108.6 million, and $67.6 million, respectively. In 2000, magazine advertisements for youth brands of cigarettes reached more than 80 percent of young people in the United States an average of 17 times each.
Conclusions: The Master Settlement Agreement with the tobacco industry appears to have had little effect on cigarette advertising in magazines and on the exposure of young people to these advertisements.